Annie is not a minimalist. She likes stuff. Over the years, family and friends have given her enough stuffed animals, toys, and clothes to fill multiple closets. Still, she is learning. Today, I discuss ways of teaching kids about minimalism without forcing it down their throats.
Annie Erickson and Dan Erickson: Photo by Deccio Creative
Today is Annie’s 13th birthday, so I thought it would be fitting to write a post about teaching kids about minimalism. I’ve seen a lot of posts about minimalism and kids on social media. But I’ve noticed something. Many minimalists are not giving their kids the choice to decide. Their kids become minimalists be default.
I Was Forced To Live In A Cult As A Kid
When I was 10 years old, my parents joined a cult. I had no choice. I was forced into living in a bunkhouse and working long hours. That’s why I’ve made a point to not indoctrinate my kid with any religion or philosophy. However, that doesn’t mean she won’t learn by example.
Technically, I do indoctrinate Annie in a lot of ways. I’ve taught her the importance of education. We attend church. And I’ve taught her how to get rid of things that she doesn’t need anymore. Still, I’ve made a point not to force minimalism on her.
Teaching Kids About Minimalism
- Show and tell: Ever since Annie was about 4 years old, I’ve taught her to let things go. Every time we cleaned her room together, I asked her if she really wanted to keep things as we picked them up. It was slow at first, but over the years she began to see that we don’t need to keep everything.
- Start early: The earlier we start teaching kids about anything, the better. Annie had swimming lessons from the time she was an infant. Now she swims regularly. I started reading with her at a very young age. She’s the top reader in her class. Start showing kids how to live simply at an early age.
- Repeat the process: As Annie got a little older, I started having her make three piles whenever we cleaned her room. The first pile was stuff to keep. The second was stuff to pack. The third was stuff to give away. We repeated the process regularly. I never forced her to give anything away that she didn’t want to give away.
- Pass it on: As Annie grew, we packed up toys, clothes, artwork, and other belongings into plastic bins. Last year, I handed the job over to Annie. I brought the bins in from the garage one at a time. I asked her to go through them and give away the things she no longer wanted or needed. She did.
Kids Begin To See That Things Lose Value
As Annie went through her bins, she started to notice that many of the knick-knacks, trinkets, and toys didn’t mean anything to her anymore. She was quick and decisive about what to give away. She started with eight bins and reduced things down to five bins.
So it turns out that I have been teaching Annie about minimalism. I have never forced it on her. But she is learning by my example. If you have kids, I encourage you to teach them about the value of stuff, or the lack of value. As they get older, decluttering and a minimalist mindset may just become second nature.